Our family has an annual tradition. Every summer we go camping together on the Oregon coast. The very first year we went I found out I was pregnant with our first child. Since then we’ve added two more children to the mix and have experienced camping with kids for several years.
There are several things that have made surviving (and even enjoying) camping with kids possible that I’d like to share:
- Invest in a large tent with a high ceiling– The one we use has three “rooms” and you can stand in it fully upright. This was our first year with three kids. Our oldest two shared a room and the baby got the other room. It’s the perfect size to fit a Pack n Play.
- Invest in a [amazon_link id=”B006OU4ERA” target=”_blank” ]double tall inflatable bed[/amazon_link]– We use a Queen size and bring sheets, pillows and bedding to make it like a real bed. This was a lifesaver last year when I was 7 months pregnant. The double tall keeps you up off of the ground so even if you lose a little air during the night you won’t be lying on the ground by morning. It’s much easier to get out of too!
- Pack individual bags for each of the kids– This is the first year we did this and it made it SO much easier to get the kids dressed each morning and night. I also put a bottle of sunscreen in each bag so I’d have extras. Things tend to get easily misplaced and this is one thing I wanted to make sure I had plenty of.
- Don’t go alone! Plan to camp with at least one other family either at the same campsite or side by side campsites. Your kids will have playmates and you’ll have a couple extra sets of eyes to help watch over the kids.
- Bring lots of healthy snacks but don’t forget the S’mores– The kids will play hard and get hungry. Having easy, healthy snacks will make you less stressed. We always bring a bag of trail mix from Costco, bottled water, fresh fruit, granola bars etc. This year I got a deal on [amazon_link id=”B001G6W0Y6″ target=”_blank” ]Peeled Snacks[/amazon_link] dried fruit pouches which were a hit.
- Keep meals simple and work together– Assign each family meals (breakfast & dinner) that they are responsible for providing the whole gang. We like to do eggs, sausage, bacon, pancakes etc for breakfasts but if you really want to keep it simple you can do cereal or pastries. For our assigned dinner we always do teriyaki marinated chicken and a pasta or potato salad. Meals also depend on what you have to cook with etc. We are lucky to camp with people who have lots of camping gear and a camper which really makes things a lot easier. Everyone is on their own for lunches. We usually just do peanut butter sandwiches since they kids love them and the peanut butter doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
- Use a set of Rubbermaid drawers– I emptied a set of the kids Rubbermaid storage drawers and used it for pantry items like bread and snacks. The drawers keep everything easily accessible to us yet harder to get to for the campground birds, squirrels and other critters that enjoy getting into the goodies. This was super handy and I highly recommend this method for camping.
- Be Flexible– When we are home I enforce naps but decided that while we were camping I’d just go with the flow. If the kids were in obviously need of sleep and having meltdowns we’d take action. If not, naps were forgotten. Same with meals. We agreed not to worry so much about what the kids were or weren’t eating. We’d offer healthy options but if the kids only took a few bites and then went off to play, we let it go.
- Have a back up plan– What will you do if it rains? Will you pack up and go home? Or head to a hotel? We drive 6 hours to get to the campsite so heading home if the weather turns bad isn’t really an option for us. I have an aunt who lives about an hour away from the campsite in a town with lots of things for the kids to do. We also have a back up plan for what to do if we are having a hard time handling the kids. It can get overwhelming trying to keep the troops rounded up. When it gets to be too much we head out for a few hours to spend some time in “civilization” whether it be a trip to the outlet mall or to Newport to watch the sea lions. The best part about these day trips is that they kids would always fall asleep in the car and get a good rest in.
Our camping trip this year went really well. The kids were filthy but happy and we were exhausted yet thrilled to have not only survived four nights of camping but to have actually enjoyed it. We went with my in-laws who are all extremely helpful. I’m not sure I could get through a camping trip without them and am so grateful for their help. I love watching their relationships with our kids deepen and while admittedly I initially dread this annual trip, I am always glad that we made the effort. It’s totally worth it! Creating memories that we will cherish for a lifetime far outweighs the inconvenience of packing and preparing for the trip.
Do you have any tips for traveling or camping with kids? I’d love to hear them! You can share by leaving a comment.
While you’re here, check out the other articles in the Savvy Sunday series.